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WACA cracks no threat: curator

By Chris Pike
11 December 2013 04:25PM EST

BATSMEN have enjoyed batting at the WACA Ground so far in 2013 and the ground's new curator Matt Page thinks that can continue in the Third Ashes Test starting Friday.

Page has replaced former curator Cameron Sutherland this season after the latter had a bitter falling out with the WA Cricket Association.

Under Sutherland, the WACA deck was getting back to its pace and bounce of old early on in recent Test matches before later on it has become a batting paradise.

The first example that the WACA pitch is becoming much more enjoyable for batsmen was in England's pre-Ashes tour match against a WA Second XI line-up.

In that match, the WA side made 5(dec)-451 in its first innings with England replying with 391.

So far this Sheffield Shield season, the WACA wicket has been devoid of much life whatsoever with batsmen enjoying their time in Perth.

The best example of the WACA deck flattening out and offering precious little for pacemen was when Victoria took on WA.

Stand-in Bushrangers captain Rob Quiney won the toss and remarkably sent the home side in to bat, and while his bowlers didn't deliver either, there was no movement off the seam or in the air, little pace and no out of the ordinary bounce in the wicket.

WA went on to compile 9-581 before declaring its first innings on the way to a thumping win.

In the next Shield game, Queensland did rip through WA's top-order in the first innings but that was down to the rain on the opening day and cloud cover, nothing to do with a pitch that had more life.

Once the weather cleared up in that game, the pitch became a pleasure to bat on with the game ending in a tame draw.

Only time will tell if Page has something special up his sleeve for the Ashes Test starting on Friday, but there has been nothing to suggest that the WACA deck should be feared by the English based on what has been seen this season.

With the mercury forecast to soar to at least 37 degrees for each of the five days of the Test, the WACA deck is almost certain to dry out and start cracking during play.

But Page is confident the cracks won't have a huge bearing on the outcome of the match.

"Basically the cracks here are all visual," Page said on Wednesday.

"They open up, but from the games we've had here, it's not affected the game at all."

Page said the hot weather would bake the surface and aid bowlers looking to get some extra bounce.

And he said Mitchell Johnson and company could expect to get good pace out of the deck.

England haven't won a Test at the WACA since 1978, with their past nine visits resulting in seven losses and two draws.

The tourists trail 2-0 in the current series, and need to come away with at least a draw in Perth if they are to hold out any hope of retaining the Ashes.

England are set to recall fit-again paceman Tim Bresnan for spinner Monty Panesar, while Australia are almost certain to name an unchanged XI.

Australia boast a formidable pace quartet featuring Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and all-rounder Shane Watson.

Johnson has been the star of the series so far with 17 wickets at an average of 12.7, but Siddle and Harris have also played significant roles.

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